Demand, Supply and the Paralysis of a Small Business

This fortnight, I experienced the high a small business dreams to have.

When we were curating a list of products, we didn’t pick a huge inventory for every product. Of course we couldn’t! How would we know what will sell? We gave our designs and took inputs from our manufacturer and chose those 5-10 designs to be made in 1-10 quantities per product and in different metals and fabric to see what will work and what fits in our budget at present.

We did well on certain products and didn’t do so well in some. That is the nature of the beast called small business problems. My partner wanted to launch in October Navratri with her hairline foot fracture and 2 kids struggling with cold cough. She is a woman of steel and that needs a separate blog entry.

We went ahead!

We had so many shoutouts on Instagram and we also got some orders immediately. What a high! What else does a small business want?

We were happily living in our little sweet bubble quite satisfied with selling from our small inventory of maximum 10 pieces to be sold when Seema from our Instagram world chose a humble dragon fly set of wall art.

We had 10 sets to sell. We got sold out immediately the day we launched. The hours after Seema posted our set on her cozy Instagram feed (21Nov), we experienced what one of those people feel when their videos go viral. We got over 100 queries within few hours and they are still trickling in every now and then(3Dec today). Ecstatic but that feeling vanished very soon when people kept checking again and again where the dragon flies are! I kept nudging them with various other products via Instagram posts – see my cushions also, check out my planters, here are my platters. But dragon flies it is!

The world famous dragon fly that is having ‘covid vaccine in May’21’ kind of moment. We are working hard to meet the demand but everyone wants it now.

Here comes the struggle that nobody talks about doing business in India. I have learnt more about human nature in the last 2 months compared to the last 2 years combined. My manufacturer went down with a cataract operation first. Several calls and personal visits were made but the pace didn’t pick. The 22 year old son wasn’t a good enough replacement. While we were struggling to get some pieces made, (as if the cataract wasn’t enough) he got a paralytic attack too!

Here we are! Over 100 queries and an exciting demand to be met, we are to deal with the paralysis and cataract of our maker! On top of it, the raw material prices of each metal has shot up considerably (nearly by 50%) so the price at which I got it made in October, is now way higher. All thanks to China (Not!) – they made some changes to their steel exports which has had a domino effect on iron, coal and basically all metal supplies which has put overall Indian manufacturing on red alert (don’t take this against me, my source has been the suppliers and manufacturers who managed to relay this info through their pan-gutka stuffed mouths). Good guys though –  not taking gutka mouths against them.

Me-to-me : As long as I get my dragon flies, you can have your gutka 24×7 bro!

Here is another interesting fact about Indian karigar community. They know the magic of their hands. We have named them “Abel Hands” on our Insta page. But the hands have their own moods. When we spent almost a day with them to see how long the process takes, we realized they don’t give a rat’s ass when it’s time to have their meals or chai time. Here we are – skipping meals, holding pee, left kids to husbands, nannies and grandparents with occasional calls to manage tantrums remotely but the karigar wants to enjoy the chai.

Me-to-me : Ok man sure! enjoy your chai  – while Vandana and I will helplessly make faces behind their backs. (I am also getting very good with mimicry)

One thing I can surely say that I am gaining and that is immense learning! Maybe I will spend another year or two trying to make my small business a bit large, maybe I won’t achieve it even in 5 years. But the learning will stay with me forever.

  • How money and quantity changes the game completely..
  • You can create many masterpieces in your small business – unless they see it on a wall of someone trustworthy, they won’t care about your masterpieces. Instagram Influencing is an underrated asset to small businesses. So here’s thanking Seema again for highlighting us.
  • Karigar’s son may actually not want to be a karigar as shared on social media manytimes glamourising the art being run in families since generations. He may want to study and get into a desk job with a regular salary. Respect that.
  • Chai and meal times are sacrosanct. Also on prayer days – most of the karigars we work with are Muslims from UP and Kashmir so Friday namaaz is top priority. Of course when we are in mental off mode on Saturdays, they are back to work like it’s a Monday.
  • Health is everything. Human life is fragile. Anything can happen anytime. Enjoy your meals, your chai and give yourself a dedicated moment to connect with whoever you believe in – be it God or you meditating with yourself.

I am still awaiting my first lot of pieces – let’s see if he keeps up with the promise of delivering on that day. I will keep my readers updated on how the coming week will turn out. Maybe I will be sold out again or maybe I will have inventory to live with for a while – who knows!

Till then ciao..cheerio..byebye..Godspeed…adieu…au revoir…salut! (how to end a blog more impactfully is still WIP..)